When exploring the concepts of NFTs I went down the rabbit hole of thinking about ownership and where the real value of NFTs might lie. It got me thinking what is ownership and maybe how to open my self up to different ways of thinking about it. Hopefully that change in definition will benefit me in the near future.
What is ownership
The concept of ownership always baffled me. What does e.g. "buying a house" mean? Doesn't buying something means exchange of goods or services? In the majority of cases buying a house means taking out a mortgage, which in my mind means making a contractual obligation to a third party that you will serve under the terms of the contract for X amount of years. They legally own the house until
current day < day of purchase + (365 * X) under assumption that all conditions of that contract were fulfilled.
Even if I expand my thinking beyond property ownership, like my own body; do I really own or will it someday be "owned" by someone else? I know that sounds ridiculous. But here is my explanation why I ask myself a question like this. When you die all of your atoms that one day assembled your body, go back into the earth or air (cremation) and eventually make their way into the bodies of other living creatures. Maybe some atoms feed the plants or simply become gasses. Some may venture out to space (helium) where the gravitational "pull" of the Sun lures them in but more or less the total amount of atoms never leave planet Earth. Earth recycles. So do I own my body? Do I own its atoms? If I do for how long are those atoms in my possession?
So I'm adding my definition of ownership that would encompass my current way of thinking about ownership:
Ownership is a tight association with a thing or idea for a certain amount of time under specific circumstances within that period of time.
If the circumstances change the item or idea might be taken away from you. When the time passes (it might not always be strictly defined) the item or idea might be taken away from you. The period of time if mainly defined by circumstances. E.g. You own an NFT only if blockchain is secure enough to keep that promise to you. Another example: You own a piece of land only if that land is not invaded by some other people and decides it's not yours anymore.
The idea of ownership has been so deeply embedded into our minds that it's hard to imagine that it might mean something else then: I own something therefor it's mine. I think it's safe to say we all would agree with that statement but somewhere in the back of our minds we know it's not describing the situation completely. If you navigate to a wiki page describing ownership that's pretty much what you find.
Now imagine the world where some other civilization made it's way to the glory of what today is western civilization. Let's imagine Kiribati made their stand at the right time and the righ place in our history. Kiribati had a system called Bubuti in place.
The Bubuti system is a form of trade , exchange or a formalized neighborhood aid on the atolls of the island state of Kiribati in the Pacific.
The word 'buti' actually means 'please'. By doubling it is amplified: 'bubuti'.
Bubuti is used when one person needs a particular item that someone else poseses, a person can approach that person and simply ask for it. The other person cannot refuse to give that item. Of course there are certain situations where the request can be turned down but it must comply with the social norms of the Kiribati's.
Ok. Now that we've opened our minds to what ownership could mean let's talk NFT.
NFT and Apes
So what's all that kerfuffle about the apes and NFTs? You've probably heard about Bored Ape Yacht Club, Crypto Punks,... It's exactly what is says it is. It's a club. Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, Lil Baby,... all bought one. So this one is a club of celebrities which you can simply join by buying one of the apes.
The tickets to the celebrity club are, as you can imagine, not cheap. The prices go anywhere between $300K to millions.
It's a modern way of showing everyone that you own that yacht, or rolex or a Bentley. Simple as that.
But is there in NFTs something for mere mortals like me?
There are uses of NFTs beyond belonging to a club by buying an avatar JPEG for $1M. And that's what excites me.
One of the exciting features of NFTs is membership.
As I've mentioned before NFTs are a simple way of being in a certain digital club. It doesn't have to be exclusive. NFTs can be Air Dropped, they can be cheap, they can have a set maximum price or utilize stable coins. All of this is possible because an NFT is just a piece of code running on a blockchain. It's an idea backed by smart contract (ERC-721). And the ideas are always evolving (ERC-1155), (ERC-998).
If we step away from the code itself there are greater implications of the NFT clubs.
Use-cases where the power of NFTs could be utilized
Here are just a few examples.
Dorsey ended up selling his NFT (his first tweet) for $2.9 million, and he donated the proceeds to Give Directly’s Africa Response fund for COVID-19 relief.
Other, even more exciting uses?
One of the exciting ideas was proposed by
loomdart on Twitter, saying that an NFT could be used as an confirmation email.
Retail / discounts
Shopify allows you to sell your NFTs on the site, if you have their Shopify Plus plan.
Let me know if there are other interesting use cases out there I could add to my list.